What are the causes and remedies for depersonalization?

Symptom Database

Depersonalization is a psychological phenomenon characterized by a persistent feeling of detachment from oneself and the surrounding environment. It is often accompanied by a sense of unreality and a disconnection from one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Depersonalization can be a distressing experience, leading to significant impairment in daily functioning and quality of life. In this article, we will explore the causes and remedies for depersonalization, including its symptoms, treatment options, self-help strategies, and support resources.

Symptoms of Depersonalization

Depersonalization disorder manifests through various symptoms that can significantly impact an individual’s perception of reality and self-identity. Some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling detached from one’s body or physical sensations
  • Experiencing a sense of watching oneself from outside the body
  • Feeling like an automaton or robot
  • Perceiving the world as unreal or dreamlike
  • Having difficulty connecting with emotions
  • Experiencing memory difficulties
  • Feeling emotionally numb

These symptoms can be distressing and may lead to significant anxiety and impairment in daily functioning.

Causes of Depersonalization

The exact causes of depersonalization are not fully understood. However, several factors have been identified as potential contributors to the development of depersonalization disorder:

  • Severe stress or trauma: Traumatic events, such as physical or emotional abuse, accidents, or witnessing violence, can trigger depersonalization symptoms.
  • Psychological factors: Individuals with certain personality traits, such as high levels of anxiety or a tendency to dissociate, may be more prone to depersonalization.
  • Substance abuse: The use of certain substances, such as marijuana or hallucinogens, can induce depersonalization symptoms.
  • Underlying mental health conditions: Depersonalization can occur as a symptom of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is important to note that depersonalization can be a transient experience for some individuals, while for others, it may become chronic and require professional intervention.

Depersonalization Treatment

While there is no specific cure for depersonalization disorder, various treatment approaches can help individuals manage and alleviate their symptoms:


Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), has shown promising results in treating depersonalization disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge distorted thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their depersonalization symptoms. It also focuses on developing coping strategies and improving emotional regulation.


Medication may be prescribed to manage underlying anxiety or depression that often co-occurs with depersonalization disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are commonly used medications in the treatment of depersonalization.

Self-Help Strategies

Individuals experiencing depersonalization can also employ self-help strategies to alleviate their symptoms:

  • Stress management techniques: Engaging in relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help reduce stress levels and promote a sense of grounding.
  • Physical activity: Regular exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety, which can indirectly alleviate depersonalization symptoms.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Prioritizing adequate sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and avoiding substance abuse can contribute to overall well-being and symptom management.

Depersonalization Recovery

Depersonalization recovery is a gradual process that varies from individual to individual. While some people may experience spontaneous remission of symptoms, others may require ongoing treatment and support. It is essential to be patient and persistent in seeking appropriate help. Recovery from depersonalization often involves:

  • Engaging in therapy: Regular therapy sessions can provide a safe space to explore and address underlying issues contributing to depersonalization.
  • Building a support network: Connecting with others who have experienced depersonalization or joining support groups can provide validation, understanding, and practical coping strategies.
  • Self-care: Prioritizing self-care activities, such as engaging in hobbies, practicing mindfulness, and setting boundaries, can contribute to overall well-being and symptom management.

Depersonalization Self-Help and Support

Several resources are available to individuals seeking self-help and support for depersonalization:

  • Online communities: Online forums and support groups dedicated to depersonalization provide a platform for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and find solace in knowing they are not alone.
  • Books and literature: There are various self-help books and literature available that offer insights, coping strategies, and personal stories related to depersonalization.
  • Professional support: Seeking help from mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, can provide personalized guidance and support tailored to individual needs.

Remember, everyone’s journey with depersonalization is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is crucial to find a combination of strategies and support that resonate with your individual experience and needs.

In conclusion, depersonalization is a complex psychological phenomenon that can significantly impact an individual’s sense of self and reality. While the exact causes are not fully understood, various treatment approaches, self-help strategies, and support resources can aid in managing and alleviating depersonalization symptoms. With the right support and perseverance, individuals can work towards recovery and regain a sense of connection with themselves and the world around them.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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